In the days before my t-shirt designs went live I posted some images on Instagram - the one on the right, above, is one of them - tagged #theartofwildness. That was my old blog name and was calling to be put out in the world again, so I used it for the store. It seemed appropriate.
I looked at the images again last night and smiled. I realised they might seem contrived but I promise you, this is how I live. That is my every day. Just as some people show up on the mat, the meditation cushion, the treadmill, at the altar...I show up out there. Every day, whatever the weather.
The dogs play a part in this - and that's just one of the reasons I am so grateful for their companionship - but I truly believe I'd do it anyway. It is, and has been for the 24 years since I moved out of Bath (not to mention many years before that), my practice. My mat, cushion, treadmill and altar. Even when it's cold, wet, dark and I'd rather be inside watching Peaky Blinders, I'm not. I'm out there with the earth, the trees and the streams; the full moons and new moons, solstices and storms. Showing up.
And it occurred to me that equally representative, almost, would be the other image. My desk at work. Doing what I've noticed I refer to as 'my day job'. With all the negative connotations that carries. And you know what? It's not 'my day job'. It is also my practice.
Twelve years ago I applied for a role at the charity I've worked for ever since. It was my third application in ten years and this time I'd built up journalism qualifications, PR and marketing experience, and my knowledge of conservation and environmental issues was deeper and better informed, so I got in and I've stayed. I believe in our work as much as I ever have, if not more. Twelve years of fighting for the rights of whales and dolphins; self-aware, intelligent beings with family, language, culture and their own 'names'. I have no plans to leave.
I am, as I step into the territory of my 50s, discovering one great thing: I know myself now. I may be a late bloomer as so many people seem to say this in their 40s and yes, things began to become clear then for me, but now is different.
Yet it's only recently that I've stopped repeating the,'I need to find myself...I need to discover/uncover my passion, my calling' line out of sheer habit. Because I don't. That's done. What a bloody relief. Now I can just get on with it.
Perhaps it was that old habit that got me all fired up this summer about how I should change the world. How I contribute to making the world a kinder, more inclusive, less murderous place. Hit by the inevitable, endless waves of horror at how humans abuse other beings as well as themselves I felt as if I was part of the problem, not part of the solution. Just by dint of my silence.
Um...12 years...week in, week out...witnessing the horror...fighting to stop it...celebrating the wonders...being part of a team that has succeeded in achieving huge change in both perception and treatment of non-human beings...I was already doing it.
My 'day job' is as much a part of me as my family, the woods, the reiki and the creativity. What a blessing that is. I am an activist and have been for more than a decade and what's more it pays to keep a roof over my family's head. A roof that sits among the woods where I find my inspiration and my answers.
Life is never still or settled. We're either moving forward or backwards. Sideways? I will be learning and changing and reintegrating until the day I die. And, I believe, beyond. But there does, it seems to me, come a time when you know your land, your 'place' in it all and feel deeply, viscerally not simply connected to it but part of it. A contributing, essential part. That's when the adventure really begins. That's when, as the circuit closes on your wholeness, the power surges through the circle.
As good as it would be to know this feeling at 20, 30 or even 40, many people do not. But that doesn't matter. It comes when it comes. We need be only aware and watchful and open to it.
* Namaste to my dear Lisa Field-Elliot